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Under Hungarian Rule and After the Holocaust

Translated by Dorothy Gross Nadosy

The Hungarian governments brought disaster to Hungarian Jewry. Without the hell–deep antisemitism of the Hungarians, without the voluntary surrender to Nazi orders, and without the cruelty of the Arrow Cross members, a few hundred thousand of our brothers would still live! The final stage of the depravity began after the Vienna Arbitration, continued with the Munich Conference, with the retreat of the cowardly West before the Nazis, and ended with the introduction of Nuremberg laws in Hungary.

We are not trying to flaunt ourselves compared to a nation that actively participated in Holocaust misdeeds. We have to forget also the semi–liberal era that characterized the Austro–Hungarian regime before the first World War. Jews contributed greatly to the successes of economic, cultural, health, and artistic and sporting life, much higher than their proportion in the population. Ten thousand of our brethren fought, killed, and distinguished themselves for a foreign “home” in a foreign army. Compared to the Magyars, there was more than twice the number of Jewish victims. The people's “thanks” came to us in World War II. Of the small Jewish community at the time (1914–1918), 46 Beregszász soldiers died, 3–4 times as many as their number in the population. Tens were injured and hundreds were honored. All this was abolished with Hungarian cruelty! Well, do we forget?

The first thanks was immediately felt by the invasion of the Hungarian army into Berehovo and renaming it Beregszász (October 1938). We do not forget the expressions, the grievances, the curses that our dear neighbors rained on our heads over the long decades. The youth sought – and found – ways to leave the city and the country immediately. Free trade was barricaded for us; universities were sealed hermetically; the defamatory and incomprehensible repression extended in all directions. Our community did not just “sit on its luggage,” as there were not many opportunities to escape. We did not have a proudly acting, energetic leadership that would have changed the direction of the situation. They were helpless as in every community in those chaotic days.

Could our young people not learn? They changed professions: craftsmanship, farming, heavy physical work, all with their eyes on Eretz Yisroel. Further restrictive regulations were not delayed: Jewish youth were drafted into labor camps, into the realm of primitive sadists where there was rarely a humane officer. (We would like to note this). The youth suffered and fought for existence. Toward the end of the war, many of our city's sons were liberated on the Russian front, but the “liberators” killed more than a few of them.

Only a short time ago, Hungarian Jews could have flattered themselves with illusions, even though they clearly saw how the German machine of destruction sprang up in the neighboring countries. In April 1944, the Jews in Beregszász and the surrounding area began being rounded up into the ghetto set up in the Vári brickyard. Their possessions, their houses, their lands, their money, and their jewels were stolen and confiscated, and in the 25th, 27th, and 29th days of the month of Iyar, 5705 [Jewish dates], the ghetto was liquidated with German methodology and Hungarian execution. When the Jews from Beregszász and its surroundings (8,000 souls) were herded into the railroad station and from there to Auschwitz, I do not think there were a dozen Hungarians in the city who shed tears behind their curtains.

The most terrible national tragedy of mankind's history comes from six million people's personal tragedies. Few were able to stop cruel fate and survive after hellish physical and spiritual torture. Only a handful of refugees returned to the city that had cast them out, and what did they find? Indifferent, relaxed, two–faced citizens, with no grief or conscience, and with hostile glances – as if there was something I had done since the expulsion! After a few days, or just a few hours, most of the people left the stinking area. How could they live among those who turned over their families and stole their property? One goal brought them here: to search. Maybe someone came back from the family? Maybe a small memory of the family is left somewhere?

Then they went on their way west, from where it was easier to go east. Returning to the Displaced Persons camps, they began to organize – they wanted to return to the Jewish home. Those who had overseas relatives were emigrating to America. But the majority wanted a home, and there was only one! Many participated in the Israeli liberation struggles. After a few years they began to search for each other, they came together, and they began to think about the memory of our community – here at home.

We have flattered ourselves that we are better than the other Landsmannschafts that have been set up each year to commemorate their families and religious communities. The link among the Beregazsász people is indeed more cordial, almost familiar, and there are smaller groups among us that have close relationships. But we cannot boast of grandiose perpetuation works, which sometimes were erected by a wealthy brother in memory of his city. So far, the noblest perpetuation attempt was the founding of the Central Cancer Research Institute in the name of the Beregszász community. But, unfortunately, it failed through no fault of the founders and workers. The memorial in the Cholon cemetery remained for us, the monumental Yizkor book, and this modest album, which captures our Jewish life in pictures. And there was a bitter doubt in our hearts that we would not have enough time left to realize further and bigger plans.

If the criteria for the chapters of our album are years, then this is our “longest” chapter because this chapter has no end. We have summarized the fateful and dark years of Hungarian domination, the Holocaust, and the aftermath, to this day. In the years and days of the tragedy, who would have thought to perpetuate that present? There were no logs, records and, of course, no pictures. The unbearable weight pressed on the body, the brain, the thought. That is why we were delighted with every picture we received, whether it was from school or from labor camps. Because of the other camps – only the names remained.

We have selected some images from our Israel years that portray rare gatherings of our friends from our city and surroundings. Most of them appear in worldwide gatherings, which are doubtful to be repeated. We want to leave our descendants images of the multitude of which we will learn and speak not only to our people, but to the entire cultural world – for many centuries. And let us leave images as a legacy to our offspring and their children in the hope that in their memory and in the spirit of the Jewish nation, we will continue to be the revival of generations that went through the Holocaust and assisted each other and their fellow–beings with enthusiasm and determination inherited from their parents' home: reaching the light, despite the new dangers, to the independence of the people of Israel, their free land and state!

We are trying to avoid superlatives in the most magnificent and heroic chapter in the history of our people, because they are not capable of depicting or expressing “experiences” that we went through (or that we slogged through) in the last fifty years. With all our hearts, we ask that our followers – and there will be! – keep the memories of the generations of the Holocaust and Revival – all of them! – with piety, love, respect, and understanding, forever and ever!

 

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Our youth in the work battalions with the armbands

 

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The work is hard, but they still smile

 

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Farewell to democracy:
the last parade of Czechoslovak troops

 

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Youngsters, even children, are drafted to work

 

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All the dignitaries of the town and the authorities
(Independence Day, October 28, 1930)

 

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An army unit but in civilian clothes

 

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The last legal excursion of the Hanoar Hatzioni -- 1941

 

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The first photo after liberation:
Sheindi here is 15 years old

 

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The emigrate to the west as a stepping stone for Aliyah

 

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Three friends who never came back:
Kaufmann-Kafka, Mackó Herskovits, Musz Mermelstein

 

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Czechoslovakian Betar reunion in Natanya (1951):
a group of ex-Beregszász members

 

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Survivors from Beregszász setting out for Palestine (1946)

 

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And those who remained in Beregovo
(photo from 1966)

 

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Planting a forest in the Jerusalem hills in memory of the extinct Jewish community of Berehovo

 

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Memorial plaque for our martyrs

 

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Rabbi Hugo Gryn from London at the gathering

 

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Around 500 attend the memorial gathering

 

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A group of overseas participants after the gathering

 

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Opening ceremony of World Conference

 

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Memorial gathering in the Martyr's Section of Cholon cemetery

 

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Our oldest picture: a group of Jewish youths on July 15, 1905

 

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The wedding of Esther and Moritz Blau in 1918

 

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Registering and poring over the “Yizkor Book”

 

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Guests arriving to the World Conference of ex-Berehovo Jews

 

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Our delegation in the President's House, Jerusalem

 

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Survivors from Berehovo set up a cancer research center

 

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